Submitted to the AFRO by Floyd Taliaferro

A few years ago, a young mother – let’s call her ‘Ann’ – and her children were referred to All Walks of Life for anger support and behavioral issues.  It wasn’t long before we discovered the children’s behavioral challenges stemmed from another cause.

Ann, an African American woman and Baltimore-native, revealed to our clinicians her own challenges and adverse childhood experiences. Her childhood was riddled with trauma as both of her parents struggled with drugs and she eventually landed in foster care. As an adult, the cycle repeated itself as Ann struggled with her own drug addiction that resulted in the lost custody of her children. Eventually, we learned Ann was suffering from schizophrenia; and that drug use was the only solution she knew to alleviate traumatic memories and frightening hallucinations.

Unfortunately, poor mental health that is compromised by attempts to self-medicate is common in almost every impoverished Baltimore community. Generations of children and adults are desperately fighting to break their family cycles of trauma while the economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors of Baltimore’s urban environments make it difficult to receive the professional help needed. According to the Baltimore City Health Department’s (BCHD) White Paper: State of Health in Baltimore report, although city residents are only 10 percent of Maryland’s population, it held 29 percent of the state’s total substance-related emergency room visits in 2018.  Paired with over 1,000 calls to the mental health crisis hotline, the BCHD has made behavioral health the number one priority.

All Walks of Life, LLC

Compromised mental health does not happen automatically. Similarly, mental wellness does not naturally occur nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach to care. Our organization understands that treatment in urban environments has to be culturally competent and holistic – addressing the social, economic, and environmental factors that often contribute to low levels of mental health.

All Walks of Life’s Village-Centered Treatment™ approach is a person-centered, culturally-sensitive, and strengths-based approach that empowers individuals to self-advocate as well as receive the comprehensive mental health services needed. For example, we understand that sometimes just getting to therapy can be stressful, especially if you cannot afford bus fare or for someone to watch your children. For that reason, we go to our clients’ homes. We remove as many barriers to mental health as possible – meeting clients wherever they are both physically and mentally.

With Ann, she was able to receive the non-judgmental listening ear that she needed to feel safe and supported. In the comfort of her home, we provided both Ann and her family with the “village” they needed to heal as well as have basic needs met such as food, school supplies, and links to other services. This led to her trusting our counselor enough to reveal deeper issues she was battling. Once her mental health improved, Ann was able to gain confidence and began to believe a better future was possible for not only herself but also her children. The transformation in her life has been remarkable.  Next fall we will join Ann and her children at her college graduation.

Earlier this month, across the nation I, along with many others, paused to express appreciation to my mom by doing something special. For some women Mother’s Day can also serve as a reminder of pain, loneliness, and depression. While we pause to thank mom, we should also remember May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and consider ways to support mothers in our communities to help break generational cycles of low mental health.

Today, Ann’s children are older, and their family is thriving. When talking about her progress, Ann expresses regret that she “wasn’t able to get to this point in my life sooner”. Our message to her and others in the same situation: Life is still worthwhile! It’s never too late to improve the lives of your children by first getting help for yourself.

Everyone has a story and sometimes just having someone who will listen is all you need to improve your mental health. If you ever find yourself feeling down, call us. In many cases, a person may only need one session to get back on track.

Floyd Taliaferro IV, LCSW-C is Executive Director of All Walks of Life, LLC.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.
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